LinkedIn hit with censorship accusations for removing critics of government Covid policies

LinkedIn has admitted it can make mistakes after becoming embroiled in censorship accusations. This week the accounts of three prominent Scottish hospitality leaders were removed following viral posts calling out the Scottish government's Covid-19 policies.

In a statement to The Drum about the individual cases, a LinkedIn spokesperson said: "We know we won’t always get it right and when we do make a mistake, we’ll work directly with the member to correct it.”

The LinkedIn accounts for the Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG), founder of The Scottish Gin Society Steven White and Buck’s Bar Group owner Michael Bergson have been suspended with limited communication from the platform.

LinkedIn's statement added: “We are focused on keeping LinkedIn a safe, trusted, and professional platform. We have clear terms of service and Professional Community Policies that outline what we expect from all our members, including that member profiles must represent a real name and identity."

On Tuesday (December 14) Stephen Montgomery, leader of the SHG, was unable to access the SHG LinkedIn account and asked to verify his identity by submitting a passport photo. The SHG account was also not searchable for the time Montgomery was blocked from the account. At the same time, Twitter took down Montgomery’s personal account which was later restored.

Montgomery told The Drum the SHG account had ramped up its communications on both Twitter and LinkedIn over the weekend to campaign against government guidance change on hospitality.

“When you’ve got three big voices in hospitality saying the exact same thing it begs the question why certain social media platforms are taking down our posts and locking down our accounts,” Montgomery said. “Nothing I’ve posted is derogatory or defamatory, it’s all issues relevant to the pandemic to give people information.”

White, a less vocal member of the Scottish hospitality community, claimed his most recent posts had been taken down on Wednesday (December 15) and his account deactivated. He raised a complaint to the platform but was told there was nothing wrong with the account, the posts and account have since been restored.

The missing entries followed White’s LinkedIn post on Friday (December 10) calling out the Scottish government's guidance to cancel Christmas parties. By Sunday the post had been viewed 130,000 times and White was featured on the front page of Scotland on Sunday.

“I can’t find another explanation for it other than someone making some serious complaints to LinkedIn about our activity,” White said. “I never use foul language or make accusations or do anything that would get me in trouble I’m acutely aware of that stuff.”

He added: “Yes I’m criticizing the Scottish government but I’m very measured”.

The third hospitality leader, Bergson, has had his account taken down for up to 14 days while LinkedIn reviews his appeal. After two days of his account being deactivated LinkedIn sent an email which said: “Your account was restricted due to multiple violations of Linkedln’s User Agreement and Professional Community Policies against sharing context that contains misleading or inaccurate information.”

The posts in question were as follows:

Bergson admitted he had been vocal about the Scottish government's Covid policies on LinkedIn but said in the days preceding the account deactivation his posts were becoming more viral. He says the trio “didn’t have any article simultaneously shared, we don’t collaborate in what we are saying”.

Reported LinkedIn content is reviewed by its Professional Community Policies based on four pillars: Be Safe which includes sharing harmful material or inciting hate; Be Trustworthy which includes sharing misleading information and creating fake accounts; Be Professional includes sharing explicit or inflammatory content and Respect Others’ Rights which covers intellectual property rights and privacy laws.

In October Microsoft closed LinkedIn in China after it was called out for blocking access to US journalists for its China-based users.